YPSILANTI – At the 20th annual Eastern Michigan Open, the freshmen and sophomore wrestlers from 29 universities across the country, were on display at Bowen Field House. The wrestlers were competing unattached at the Michigan wrestling team’s first tournament of the season.
Freshman heavyweight Justin Dozier brought home the Wolverines’ lone individual championship. In addition, eight others placed within the top six of their respective weight classes.
Dozier, from Woodhaven, Mich., brought home the title in the heavyweight class Saturday, competing in the last match of the day. It was 9 p.m. and the rest of the mats were being rolled up when Dozier grabbed hold of Ohio State’s Orry Elor’s leg. With the Michigan coaches yelling at Dozier, “pull him back to the middle,” Dozier pulled Elor back to the center of the mat and scored a two-point takedown to take the lead 4-3, grab the championship, and conclude the tournament.
“I think the guys wrestled very tough,” said assistant coach Donnie Pritzlaff. “We can build off of the effort and the toughness and like you saw in the last match, scoring when you have to score to win.
“We have a lot of raw material to work with. All of our guys want to be here and want to win.”
Following his third-place finish in his first-ever college appearance, which he won in convincing fashion, 12-3, freshman Camryn Jackson, wrestling at 141, expected more of himself.
“I was never really satisfied with my performance,” Jackson said. “Next year I hope to start, and then I hope to be a national champion.”
Though Jackson expects more of himself, the coaches were pleased with the grit and guts they saw from the freshmen.
“I think it’s a good test for the young guys. Its good to see these guys come out here and get some matches in,” said volunteer coach Kyle Massey.
The freshmen are not the only fresh faces on the Michigan wrestling team.
Michigan coach Joe MacFarland is working with an entirely new staff this year. Massey, assistant coach Donny Pritzlaff and assistant coach Sean Bormet are the newest additions to the wrestling coaching staff. An All-American heavyweight at Wisconsin, Massey could be seen instructing players from the sidelines. Bormet, who dressed in a suit, is a three-time winner of the Terry McCann Award as the USA Wrestling Freestyle Coach of the Year.
“This is the biggest Eastern tournament that has ever been put on,” Eastern Michigan coach Derek DelPorto said. “There’s 500 college wrestlers at this Bowen Field House and I think the community needs to know, if you want to see really, really tough Division-I wrestling, it’s right here.”
“I feel with the new coaches and with the new workout partners, as a team we’re going to do real well this season,” said redshirt sophomore Dan Yates said, stuck watching from the sideline and cheering on the freshmen. “At least top three in the nation.”
Those are high goals for a team that finished 15th of 73 at the NCAA championships in Philadelphia just last year.
The Wolverines had a positive showing overall, with five placing in the top three and winning their last matches of the day.
This past weekend was about the freshmen and they rose to the occasion. Michigan’s wrestlers will go to Lansing next weekend for the Michigan State Open beginning at 9 a.m., where the starters will see more action.